I can't believe four days have slipped by since our last posting. I think we have a good alibi as we've managed to explore the area around the RV park, visited Mount St. Helens and conducted several unscientific fish population surveys. My UV absorption shielding tests proved to be very satisfactory with only minor 'pinking' noted. See, lots to do. Chris says I was just being lazy sitting in a chair by the pond, fishing pole in hand. She completely missed the survey and tests I was conducting.
Probably the biggest thing for us was the visit to Mount St. Helens. Hard to believe the volcano erupted 35 years ago. The Silver Lake Visitor Center was only about 40 minutes from the RV park and is located about 5 miles from I-5. My opinion is this visitor center is tailored for the tourist who, for one reason or another doesn't desire or cannot make the additional 100 mile round trip out to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The facilities are top notch with ample parking including RV's, though its a tight fit for longer rigs.
Inside the center offers exhibits on the eruption of 1980, walk through dioramas, model volcanoes, a movie and of course, the obligatory gift shop. Outside there is a wetland boardwalk trail and on the day we visited we could see the volcano in the distance through a light smokey haze. Since most of the inside stuff was fee based($5 each) we opted to pass and head on up the road. The volunteers at the kiosk were outstanding; pointing out some of the good way points and which stops we definitely would enjoy. There are a couple of hosting gigs in the area and we will be investigating them for future opportunities.
Our next stop was the Forest Learning Center, some 30 miles up the road. Unlike the other centers this facility is run by Weyerhaeuser and concentrates more on the timber and how the company remained productive despite a little setback such as a mountain blowing the top off itself. Some really good displays, some short movies and of course, another gift shop. The center is free to the public – well almost free, there is a bit of propaganda. What was telling point of this center however was the view. Located high atop a bluff overlooking the north fork of the Toutle river there are meadows and flat lands below; ideal grazing land for the countless elk that have returned to the area.
Some 50 miles from the first visitor center is the Johnston Ridge Observatory where visitors can view the lava dome, the glacier that is growing and get educated on how the landscape was so drastically changed. You will need a Monument Pass or a Recreation Pass to see it all and they can be purchased on site. When we arrived there were four school buses of students just unloading; adding to the surprisingly large crowd of people already there. Since it was noon and we had no desire to battle the crowds or listen to that many students at one time, we opted to head back down the road about a ¼ of a mile to a viewpoint we spotted on the way up.
One thing struck me while writing this entry and Chris agrees so I'm pretty sure we didn't imagine it. No matter where we were, from the first visitor center to the last, everyone there seemed to speak in lowered, hushed voices. Even the students seemed less boisterous, more disciplined.
35 years ago, Mount St. Helens had something to say and I guess we're still listening, even for the whispers.